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Tampaksiring, Sebatu, Tirta Empul Temple

Tampaksiring, Sebatu, Tirta Empul Temple

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Tirta Empul is a prominent temple complex and holy mountain spring, located in the village of Manukaya, in the district of Tampaksiring, Gianyar regency, in central Bali. The site serves as a legendary setting for a traditional tale of good versus evil and is a national cultural heritage site.

The Tirta Empul Temple Complex, built circa 960 AD, is also a silent witness of the old Balinese kingdom years, particularly at the time of the Warmadewa Dynasty. Another nearby and prominent site on top of a hill beside the complex is the presidential palace, Istana Tampaksiring, built during the years of the nation’s first president, Soekarno.

Tirta Empul, meaning ‘holy water spring’ is actually the name of the water source that is located within the temple. The spring feeds adjoining purification baths, pools and fish ponds surrounding the outer complex which all flow to the Tukad Pakerisan River. It is along this river, and various sites throughout the region, that many other archaeological relics entwined in local myths and legends can be found.

Tirta Empul Temple Hightlights

As is common with Balinese temples, the Tirta Empul Temple complex has three key divisions, namely a foyer, middle yard and an inner sanctum.  Visitors to Tirta Empul first come upon the lush gardens and pathways adorned with statues and tropical plants which lead to the entrance gate.  After stepping through this typical Candi Bentar (temple gate), a vast walled courtyard welcomes visitors to the bathing pool entrances where a large Wantilan hall can be seen at the right.

Inside the inner sanctum, referred to as ‘Madya Mandala’ or ‘Jaba Tengah’, pilgrims first come across a rectangular purification bath pool where a total of 13 elaborately sculpted spouts are lined up in a row from west to east. After solemn prayers at an altar-like shrine, they proceed to enter the crystal-clear, cold mountain water. With hands pressed together, they bow under the gushing water of the first spout, carrying on to the eleventh. The water from the last two of the 13 spouts is meant for funeral purification purposes.

The myth behind the curative and purifying spring tells of an evil Balinese ruler, King Mayadenawa, who is depicted to have defied the influence of Hinduism and denied his subjects religious prayers and practices. The legend goes that this eventually angered the gods, and in a campaign, god Indra sought Mayadenawa’s subdual.

The hide-and-seek tactics of Mayadenawa fleeing Indra’s troops took place at various places all over the region, from the rivers Petanu to Pakerisan, and up to the north of Tampaksiring. Hence, the names of the sites and natural features all reflect an episode from the tale, such as Tampaksiring – ‘tampak’ meaning feet, and ‘siring’ meaning sideways, depicting an episode when the fleeing king left his footprints up the hill.

It was here that through his magical powers Mayadenawa created a toxic water spring from which Indra’s exhausted troops drank and succumbed. Indra noticed the fall of his men, and soon thrust his staff into the ground where a holy purifying water spring spurted out, to cure the troops and to even bring some of them back to life. This escapade became the legendary background to the holy spring of Tirta Empul, as well as the holy days of Galungan and Kuningan celebrated by the Balinese Hindus.

Good to Know about Tirta Empul Temple

As with any Bali temple tour or a visit to a holy place, it is always important to dress respectfully. The simple Balinese temple visitor dress code is a traditional ‘kamen’ wrap around the lower body plus a sash around the waist. Women during their periods are prohibited to enter any temple or sacred site, and may enjoy the sights and attractions in the outer perimeters only.

It would be rather tempting to try out the purification bathing ritual yourself; however the formal routine is strictly meant for pilgrims and devotees. You might want to consult your guide who might ask a temple authority for further details.

Far at the front of the temple complex is a large parking area with its eastern side lined by an art market and rows of shops selling various curios and souvenirs. There are also several warungs or food stalls selling local food, snacks and refreshments.

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
Location: Manukaya village, district of Tampaksiring, Gianyar, central Bali.

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